175/365 Master Degree Final Project 2008

Senescence Start Image

Default Opening Image for Final Project

I was going to do another catch-up with the 365 Days Journey Through the Past today. I am obsessed right now with New Orleans so I haven’t been as diligent with the Journey. However, when I looked at the photo for day 175, I knew it needed its own dedicated post. Graduating with a master’s degree was a major milestone in my life and I still love my final project, an art installation using digital technology. I have the door hanging over my couch, for heaven’s sake!

I also think this post will help explain my fascination for texture and old things, for abandoned places and buildings, and for cemeteries. In the abstract I wrote for my advisor, I explained:

A number of years ago I realized that I’m aging. The signs become more prominent each day. At first it upset me and I found myself looking in the mirror and pulling my skin taut so that it looked youthful. But I’m also pragmatic and realized that I will continue to age, so I asked myself, “How do I want to age?” I was being bombarded by images of women denying their ages, women like Cher and others. I felt them grasping for the past and denying their present and future. And I didn’t like it.

So to answer the question, “How do I want to age?” I responded, “I want to age gracefully.” But how can I age gracefully if I do not like the aged? I am a product of my culture, the culture of youth, and I realized, as I kept pulling my skin taut while looking in the mirror, that if I continued to desire youth and denigrate age, then when I truly am old, I will not like myself because I’ve spent a lifetime teaching myself to disregard the aged.

Thus began my obsession with finding the beauty in anything that is falling apart.

I designed the space to include old railings and dirty fabric swags that I made by stomping on them in the rain and mud. In the background, I had playing Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, which is slow and beautiful and poignant.

Digital Image and Video

Main Stage Area. All photos in this post are intentionally dark in order to maintain the spirit of the installation.

Again, the abstract explains best what I did:

My project consists of a print made from a collage of digital photographs framed behind a door. It is displayed juxtaposed over a video projected onto a screen door showing each layer of that same print being added to it. The video is over 16 minutes long incorporating twelve different layers. The changes between layers is slow so that at first it doesn’t appear that anything is happening but if the viewer waits long enough or comes back after leaving the piece, they will find that the image has changed.

For the video, I was inspired by the work of Bill Viola as seen in the Quintet of the Silent which I saw at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (no longer on view, unfortunately).

Old Wrought Iron Fence Draped with Rags

Collage Behind Door on Top; Video projected on a Screen Door on Bottom. Using a door screen for a video screen was a fun play on words.

The second part of my project is interactive. Over 75 photos have been programmed in HTML to lead the viewer through a series of images based upon choices the viewer makes when contemplating the photos. Each photo has two to five hot spots that take the viewer to another photo that has relevance to the previous photo. For example, if the viewer is intrigued by an eye in the image and clicks on the eye the subsequent image has relevance to the eye. On the other hand, if another viewer is more intrigued by the hair in the same photo and clicks on that, then that viewer will be taken to a completely different photo that has relevance to the hair. Each viewer will have his or her own personal experience of the interactive photos.

Individual Computer Stands

Two Individual Stations for the Interactive Part of the Project. You will notice that the image on the monitors is the same image at the beginning of this post.

Large Monitor for Viewing Images

A Large, Single Station for the Interactive Part of the Project.

People Using Large Monitor

People Going Through the Interactive Part. Not all photos were cemetery images. I had a lot of abandoned or decaying images, and some images that evoked sadness.

People Using Large Monitor

More People Using the Interactive Part

It was interesting to watch people do the interactive part. Some people whipped through the photos and got to the end real fast while others couldn’t get out of the program to save their lives! Over all, I got good reviews for the installation. I saw it as a celebration of the aging process, as did most everyone who came through. But some people saw it as death and dying and were frightened or upset or angry about it. One person wrote, “Too old, too soon.”

It’s all where one is on life’s journey and how one views age and dying that determined how one experienced the installation.


About Dezra Despain

Life is full of stories waiting to be revealed.

Posted on April 28, 2012, in 365 Days Journey Through the Past and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. Getting older is inescapable, from the day we are born. Is it the wrinkles? is it the grey hair? Is it being closer to the end that scares the living daylights out of some people? What about the benefits of age? What about wisdom? What about skills? what about coming to terms with life? 😉

  2. A very impressive accomplishment, Dezra, a true labor of love. Thanks for the additional insight into what helps to make your intriguing mind tick so eloquently.

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